In the City, the race issue is a joke.
Obama’s election has been greeted with histrionic delight by the liberal media who think that racial equality is now so much closer in the States. But as somebody who lived there for nearly ten years I remain sceptical, even if Obama has now achieved his manadate for change. Having a black president might make a lot of Americans feel good about themselves and the message it sends out about race in America.
America is a fundamentally conservative country where the racial fault lines often run deeper than the New York Times would have us suppose. One point that I haven’t seen made is that whilst Obama might be able to get himself elected to president of the United States, he still would not be able to get himself (neither would Jews, Hispanics or other non-WASP types) elected into many of the best co-op apartment buildings in New York or to many of the snootier country and golf clubs in America, ranging from New York to Boston, Los Angeles to Chicago.
The social discrimination works both ways, by the way. The problems of America’s racial issues would be much easily dealt with if these dirty secrets, acknowledging the faulty lines that exist under the surface were confronted rather than pretending a new fairytale chapter of racial equality is about to start for America.
In Europe, meanwhile we tend to be more blatant about racial matters. In France, despite a huge North African Muslim population, there is not a single black mayor. In the UK, the chances of there being a black prime minister any time soon is currently zero.
In the City, the race issue is a joke. Anybody who knows the movers and shakers of London’s wealth management world – from private bankers to asset managers, lawyers to tax advisers – will acknowledge that although there are absolutely no shortage of Lebanese, Greek, French, Turkish, Iranian, German and Indian traders, fund managers and executives in banking and financial services, there are embarrassingly few senior black private bankers, wealth managers, private client lawyers and advisors.
If you walk into a top city law firm or bank, however, you will often find the receptionists are both black, well dressed, and attractive looking, although that is about as far as many get. Will this change? For all Obama’s rhetoric of change, the world never changes overnight.